Byline: Kim-Van Dang

LOS ANGELES--The U.S. Department of Labor said Friday that in a week-long sweep of sewing shops here in March, it uncovered $745,749 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay owed to 1,230 garment workers.
Thirty-two of the 53 sewing contractors in violation were assessed nearly $500,000 in unpaid minimum wages, said Maria Echaveste, administrator of the U.S. Department's Wage and Hour division. "It's clear that L.A. is a magnet for illegal immigration, and entry-level jobs in the garment industry are what a lot of illegal aliens end up doing," she said. "We want to ensure that those employers who refuse to play by the rules do not receive an unfair competitive advantage."
The investigation--targeting contractors who were either the subject of workers' complaints or who were not registered with the state--was a joint effort between the California Department of Labor, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour division under the Targeted Industries Partnership Program.
Many of the employees were illegally paid in cash, and most employers were found to have inadequate records of wages and hours worked. After the sweep, Labor Department officials here asked 80 vendors who worked with these contractors not to ship goods produced in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They included Jonathan Martin, Baby Guess, Rated R, Melrose, No Fear, BCBG, Lunada Bay Corp., Apparel Ventures, Chez of California, Crazy Shirts and RAJ Manufacturing. So far, 19 vendors already paid $78,000 to clear their products.

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